Books: A Life of Fade-Outs and Fade-Ins TIMEBENDS

by Arthur Miller; Grove; 614 pages; $24.95

Autobiographies by writers tend to be awkward combinations of exquisite craft at storytelling and desiccated scarcity of incident. The writer's trade is by nature solitary, his customary posture bemused detachment, the key events in his inner life involved with the murky business of shaping a sensibility. In the American tradition, moreover, serious writers rarely enter politics or play more than a peripheral role in celebrity culture.

Arthur Miller undertakes the story of his 72 years with almost none of those disadvantages. His best-known works are for the stage, a collaborative medium and, in his view, one meant to arouse passions. His...

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